Are You Drinking Too Much Alcohol?

The abuse of alcohol is a major worldwide health threat, resulting in an estimated 3.3 million deaths each year, representing almost 6 percent of all deaths. In the UK, more than 7,000 people died from alcohol-related causes in 2016. In England, it is estimated that nearly 600,000 people are alcohol-dependent, and less than 20 percent of them are accessing treatment. Because alcohol is so readily available, it may be easy to forget that alcohol is a drug, and, for many people, alcohol is clearly the drug of choice.

Alcohol abuse is a serious health threat.

With the prevalence of alcohol in society, it’s especially important to get educated about the dangers of alcohol abuse and to assess how much you are drinking. The dangers of alcohol abuse are endless: Alcohol abuse contributes to more than 200 diseases and injury-related conditions, resulting in negative physical, behavioural, social, legal, and financial consequences.

Just a few of the many damaging effects of alcohol abuse include:

  • Cancer
    Drinking alcohol increases the risk for developing cancers of the oral cavity, pharynx (throat), larynx (voice box), oesophagus, liver, and colon and rectum. In women, it is associated with an increased risk of breast cancer. Research suggests that the more alcohol a person consumes regularly over time, the greater the risk of developing an alcohol-related cancer. Combining alcohol consumption with tobacco use additionally increases the risk for developing cancers of the mouth, throat, larynx, and oesophagus.

  • Liver Diseases
    Heavy drinking can cause several types of alcoholic liver disease. Fatty liver occurs when the liver enlarges as a result of fat depositing on the liver. Fatty liver can progress into alcoholic hepatitis, the chronic inflammation of the liver. Alcohol abuse also can cause cirrhosis, the progressive scarring of the liver. Cirrhosis can lead to serious complications, including fluid retention in the abdomen, vomiting blood, liver cancer, and death.

Our Alcohol Abuse Consequences 3-D Display examines eight
devastating health consequences of alcohol abuse.

  • Sexually Transmitted Infections
    Particularly among young adults, heavy consumption of alcohol is linked to higher rates of transmission of sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Being impaired by alcohol can influence people to make poor sexual choices, such as having sex when they would not if they were sober. Alcohol use also can lead to having sex without a condom or using a condom incorrectly, potentially resulting in an unplanned pregnancy, as well as the transmission of STIs.

    Our Sex Under the Influence Awareness Kit is a great way to teach
    about the dangers mixing alcohol and sexual activity.

    • Drink-Driving Crashes
      Alcohol-related motor-vehicle crashes are a leading cause of disability and death worldwide. Drivers who have been drinking alcohol are at much higher risk of being involved in a motor-vehicle crash than drivers who do not have any alcohol in their blood. Even with a relatively low blood alcohol concentration (BAC), a driver’s judgement and ability to drive decreases. As BAC increases, judgement and reaction time decrease along with the deterioration of vision.

Our D.W.Eyes Game Kit is perfect for showing
young people the dangers of drinking and driving.

So, how much alcohol is too much? According to the Chief Medical Officers’ guidelines: To minimise health risks, you should not drink more than 14 units of alcohol per week. If you consume up to 14 units of alcohol per week, it is best to spread your drinking over three or more days.

What is a unit of alcohol? One unit of alcohol is 10 ml (8 g) of pure alcohol, such as:

  • 250 ml of standard beer (4% alcohol)
  • 250 ml of a standard alcopop (4% alcohol)
  • 218 ml standard cider (4.5% alcohol)
  • 76 ml standard wine (13% alcohol)
  • 25 ml standard whisky (40% alcohol) distilled spirits or liquor

Our What Is a Unit? Display uses models
that make it easy to understand alcohol units.

Alcohol bottles and cans often have the number of units listed on the label as well as the alcohol strength or ABV (alcohol by volume). You can determine the number of alcohol units in a drink by using the equation:

Strength (ABV) x Volume (ml) ÷ 1,000 = Number of Units

Our Can You Pour a Unit? Activity Set uses fun activities
to teach your audience to gauge alcohol units.

The Chief Medical Officers for the UK recommend that women who are pregnant or who are planning to become pregnant not drink alcohol. Alcohol consumption during pregnancy can result in miscarriage, premature birth, and low birth weight, as well foetal alcohol spectrum disorders, including foetal alcohol syndrome. It is also recommended that children under 15 not drink alcohol and that, if 15–17-year-olds drink, it should be rarely—never more than once a week—and only under the supervision of a parent or carer.

If you are consuming too much alcohol, cut back or quit now to improve your health and decrease the likelihood you will develop alcohol-related problems. Tips to help you limit your drinking include:

  • Understand what an alcohol unit is. Make it your goal to follow the Chief Medical Officers’ guidelines not to drink more than 14 units a week.

  • Keep track of how much you are drinking. Being aware of just how much you are drinking can help you stay within the recommended limits.

  • Space out your drinks. Sip slowly, and have non-alcoholic drinks, such as water, between alcoholic drinks. Avoid eating on an empty stomach, and enjoy snacks between drinks to help you absorb the alcohol more slowly.

  • Set aside some days to be alcohol-free. Plan family time or other fun activities, such as going for a walk, on your alcohol-free days.

  • Limit the amount of alcohol you keep at home. You won’t be as tempted to have a drink if alcohol isn’t readily available.

  • Avoid the triggers that make you want to drink. If certain people, places, or situations make you want to drink, try to avoid them. Distract yourself with exercise, hobbies, or other activities that don’t involve drinking to help you handle urges to drink.

Remember: Alcohol abuse can have serious and potentially deadly consequences. If you have a problem with alcohol, seek help. To learn more about our alcohol education products, visit our Alcohol Section.

©2018 Health Edco®